Anyone that has provided care for an aging family member knows that it can be a very rewarding, yet exhausting, endeavor.
In order to continue to be effective, caregivers must engage in self-care practices.
What is Self-Care?
Self-care is getting a ton of exposure these days, as self improvement and striving for better health are on the rise.
A surge in health problems over the last couple decades has been largely associated with poor diet, sedentary lifestyle, and excessive stress.
People are now trying to correct these issues by focusing on self-care.
Self-care involves taking an active role in your own wellbeing, instead of waiting for disaster to strike before paying any attention to your health.
Why is self-care particularly important for caregivers?
When you spend a lot of your time caring for others, it is sometimes difficult to find the time and energy to focus on yourself.
The problem with this situation is that it is almost impossible to provide effective care for another person if you are not making time for self-care.
Overdoing it on the caregiving can lead to all kinds of problems, such as:
- Sleep deprivation
- Poor nutrition
- Lack of exercise
- Social isolation
- Financial issues
These issues can all culminate in the form of caregiver burnout.
What is caregiver burnout?
Caregiver burnout is a fairly common issue, and is exactly as it sounds. It comes from focusing too much time on care for others, and not enough time on self-care.
Methods for Practicing Self-Care
It is essential for caregivers to make time for themselves, and focus on their own interests and wellbeing.
Some effective ways to implement self-care, might be:
- Recognize your needs
- Exercise self-compassion
- Reduce stress
- Make nutrition, exercise, and sleep a priority
- Be social
- Take a break or vacation
- Ask for Help
Recognize your Needs
A big problem that a lot of caregivers face, is that they fail to consider their own needs and interests.
It can be challenging to decide what it is that you really want, if you rarely think about it.
One good approach is to try determining your needs in the moment.
Make some time each day to focus on your own needs by asking “What do I need right now?”
The answer could be a relaxing cup of tea and book. Maybe it is a 30 minute nap. Perhaps, it’s a glass of wine on the patio. It could be visiting friends, or attending a social event.
Taking the time to consider your needs each day will help you naturally implement them into your regular routine.
Self-compassion and self-care go hand in. If you don’t truly care about your own health and happiness, it much less likely that you will ever achieve it.
Never feel guilty about making time for yourself, it is necessary if you have any hope of providing effective care to others.
Easier said than done in a lot of cases, but stress is one of the major contributors to disease and illness.
Try some deep relaxation breathing techniques. The goal is to focus on every deep breaths, breathing in positive energy, and exhaling tension. Even 10 minutes a day of focused breathing can help reduce stress.
Other good stress relievers are meditation, yoga, or tai chi.
Nutrition, Exercise, and Sleep
These are 3 things your body needs for good health.
Effective self-care means avoiding processed, fatty, and sugary foods, while focusing on eating fruit, vegetables, and whole grains.
30 minutes to an hour of exercise a day can help build up the immune system, when combined with a healthy diet.
Try to get upwards of 8 hours of quality sleep a night if possible.
Social interaction is also crucial to overall health, coming in just behind nutrition, exercise, and sleep.
It is easy to become socially isolated if all your time goes into caring for a loved one.
Regular social activity is helpful for keeping the mind sharp, and warding off dementia.
Take a Break or Vacation
Take some time for yourself, away from caregiving, to do something that you enjoy. This may involve taking a trip somewhere, or maybe just taking some time to relax and recoup.
Ask for Help
Never be afraid to ask for help. Respite care services are available through a professional home care agency like Retire-At-Home.
Respite care is offered to give regular caregivers a well deserved break. A wide range of services are available for anytime you need them.